2016 World Cup of Hockey: Crosby, Canada nearly flawless in 6-0 win over Czech Republic

By Hunter Crowther (@HunterCrowther

TORONTO – Sidney Crosby had just come off the bench when a loose puck in the opposing zone found his blade.

He held it for a second before finding Brad Marchand in the slot for a one-timer that was wide right of Czech Republican goaltender Michael Neuvirth. Crosby, the Canadian captain who was already denied on a breakaway 30 seconds into the game, scooped his second loose puck of the shift and fired at Neuvirth’s shoulder, bouncing inside the Czech goal.

Just over eight minutes into the first period, Canada held a lead they would never give up, adding five more goals and defeating the Czech Republic 6-0 before a sold-out crowd at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont. Saturday night.

It was the type of performance from Crosby that carves the title “Best player on the planet” a little deeper in the Mount Rushmore of active NHLers. A goal and two assists in only 13:04 of ice time, with five shots and an 86 per cent efficiency in the face-off circle.

“(Crosby) was a star in Sochi (2014 Olympics), he was a star in Vancouver (2010 Olympics), but what you saw tonight is that he got points,” said head coach Mike Babcock in the post-game press conference. “Everyone likes to get points, Sid likes to get points too, but the reality is the team won and he was a leader.”

Sidney Crosby (left) and Carey Price were dominant in Canada’s 6-0 victory over the Czech Republic Saturday night. (NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Later that frame, Patrice Bergeron won a draw in the Czech zone that went from Crosby to Brent Burns, shooting towards and into the goal. Originally credited to the San Jose Sharks blue liner, further review indicated the puck deflected off Bergeron’s Boston Bruins’ teammate Brad Marchand, making it 2-0 with just under three minutes left in the period.

Any hope for a comeback from the Czechs was crushed after defenseman Michal Kempny was stripped of the puck by Crosby, leading to Marchand finding Bergeron in the slot before he buried it past Neuvirth milliseconds before the clock ran out on the first frame.

“We can read off each other that way, and he’s a right-hand shot. You’re working off forehands a lot more,” said Crosby in a post-game scrum. “We’re comfortable just reading the play and reacting. We don’t have to be too robotic out there, we can just kind of play whatever position needs to be played.”

Canada scored twice in the second period, one from Joe Thornton who took advantage of another perfect-pass-from-Crosby at the 7:22 mark, followed by a power play goal from Jonathan Toews.

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo capped it off with a power play marker of his own midway through the final frame.

Brad Marchand faces reporters following a 6-0 win over Czech Republic at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, Ont. (Hunter Crowther / The Hockey Guys)

Brad Marchand faces reporters following a 6-0 win over Czech Republic at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, Ont. (Hunter Crowther / The Hockey Guys)

Carey Price was magnificent, holding court in the first period after the Czechs were creating plays and generating offensive chances. After making 12 saves in the first 20 minutes, he finished with 27 saves for the shutout.

“Hockey Canada, we play very good defensive hockey,” said Price in the post-game. “We make it really difficult to score goals. Look at the roster and how many championship players are on this team, and there’s a reason why they’re champions.

“They play the game the right way, they’re on the right side of the puck at the right time.”

If Saturday night was indicative of what to expect, Canada may walk to the finals over the next few weeks. It was the same suffocating style that won them gold in Sochi, almost playing keep-a-way with their opponents and creating offense. The shot-clock read 50-27 in favour of Canada after the final buzzer.

Canada now gets two days of preparation for their second game of the round robin, a Tuesday night affair with the United States. The U.S. lost a 3-0 heart-breaker earlier in the day against Team Europe.

Babcock says he hopes his players focus on the process as the tournament rolls on.

“I’ve been to a number of this events, and the team that loses today usually gets better tomorrow, and the team that wins today usually gets a little fatter tomorrow.

“The important thing is to live scared and get better tomorrow.”

 

Follow @HunterCrowther on Twitter for updates throughout the tournament. #WCH2016

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